World Cup History
The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) began the World Cup Championship tournament in 1930 with 13 teams in Uruguay. Sixty-eight years later, 138 countries compete in qualifying rounds to fill 32 berths. Automatic berths go to defending champion Brazil and host France. The United States hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1994.
How the Playoffs Work
There are 32 teams divided into eight groups. The goal is to advance to the second round of play, then to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final. In the first round, each team receives three points for a win, one for a tie, and 0 for a loss. The two teams with the most points in each group advance to the second round.
Top Players and Teams
Alessandro Del Piero, Italy
Zinedine Zidane, France
Gabriel Batistuta, Argentina
Claudio Reyna, United States
Since the first World Cup in 1930, Brazil is the only country to play in all 15 final tournaments and win the championship four times. Italy is close behind with three championship wins; Germany and Argentina with two.
Soccer's Worldwide Popularity
Today, more than 250 million people worldwide play soccer, including 30 million women, according to the US Soccer Federation. In this country, soccer has grown an average of 10 percent in each of the last 10 years. US participation is more than 18 million, 40 percent of which are women.
* For more information on the World Cup, check out www.worldcup.com.